While it’s too early in the season to make any significant predictions, the Chicago Wolves are already showing that they will be a formidable force in the AHL. They’ve won five games in a row, including three straight on the road. One of those road wins featured a come from behind victory; another featured a high-scoring affair led by team captain Andrew Poturalski.
The Wolves currently lead the Central Division, ahead of the Iowa Wild, a familiar foe for the team. Other traditional rivals are struggling out of the gate, with the IceHogs and Admirals at the bottom of the standings. The Wolves don’t face the Wild until December, so picking up points now will be crucial to get further out ahead in the standings.
So far, the team is being led by veteran players like Poturalski and C.J. Smith, who have been fantastic on a line together with fellow veteran Stefan Noesen. But young players like Jack Drury — who scored his first two AHL goals — and goaltender Eetu Mäkiniemi are showing that they’re ready to step up and help keep the Wolves at the top of the standings.
Game 4: Wolves 3, Griffins 0
Mäkiniemi earned his first professional North American shutout in his second AHL game, turning aside all 25 shots he faced. Coach Ryan Warsofsky has spoken previously about how impressive he’s found Mäkiniemi to be in the early days of this season, and the goaltender rewarded the coach’s trust with a strong outing in Grand Rapids.
The Wolves did the work to help their goaltender out, limiting the Griffins to just 25 shots, never even hitting double digits in a period. Special teams also contributed to the success, with two of the Wolves’ three goals coming on the man advantage. Both of those goals belonged to Hurricanes prospect Jack Drury, who recorded his first AHL goal at 5:20 in the first period with the Griffins down one thanks to an interference penalty by Dominik Shine. Drury’s second goal came at 16:37 in the third period while on the power play due to a tripping call on Dan Renouf.
You tell us, is this:— Chicago Wolves (@Chicago_Wolves) October 27, 2021
1. C.J. Smith's 4th goal of the year
2. Jack Drury's 1st North American pro goal pic.twitter.com/fwAxXIVjX7
Ryan Suzuki chipped in his second assist of the season on the Wolves’ second goal, winning a faceoff and sending the puck back to David Gust, who ultimately scored.
Scoring: Jack Drury, 2 G; David Gust, 1 G; Andrew Poturalski, 2 A; Ryan Suzuki, 1 A; C.J.. Smith, 1 A
In net: Eetu Mäkiniemi, saved 25 of 25, 1.000 Sv%
Game 5: Wolves 4, Admirals 2
Playing from behind isn’t something the Wolves have done much of this season so far, but at the end of the second period, they found themselves down 2-1 to the Milwaukee Admirals. Stefan Noesen had the only goal for the Wolves to that point, with assists to linemates C.J. Smith and Andrew Poturalski.
Noesen Smith— Chicago Wolves (@Chicago_Wolves) October 30, 2021
Scoring goals pic.twitter.com/qtJzjvQvgI
The third period of the game was much more low event than the previous two, with the shot count totalling nine for the Wolves and four for the Admirals. They made those nine shots count, though, scoring three times in around six minutes to secure the win.
Poturalski’s second goal of the season came when the Wolves had a five-on-three advantage, with both Robert Carpenter and Joseph LaBate sitting for the Admirals. His shot came from just above the goal line off of a smart pass from the point from Joey Keane.
Pottsssyyyyyyy pic.twitter.com/gQ70XwPtnQ— Chicago Wolves (@Chicago_Wolves) October 30, 2021
Spencer Smallman and Cavan Fitzgerald both scored their first goals of the season to put the Wolves over the top and complete the comeback.
Scoring: Andrew Poturalski, 1 G 1 A; Spencer Smallman; 1 G; Cavan Fitzgerald, 1 G; Stefan Noesen, 1 G; C.J. Smith, 2 A; Joey Keane, 1 A; David Gust, 1 A; Jesper Sellgren, 1 A; Sam Miletic, 1 A
In net: Alex Lyon, saved 22 of 24, 0.917 Sv%
Game 6: Wolves 6, Griffins 3
The Wolves wrapped up their road trip with another stop in Grand Rapids, where they turned in another dominant performance powered almost entirely by Andrew Poturalski, who now leads the AHL in points and assists. Poturalski recorded a five point night, with a hat trick and two assists. Amazingly, although he’s in his sixth full season in the AHL, this was Poturalski’s first professional hat trick.
The @APots94 Show ™️#WeAreTheWolves pic.twitter.com/FjFZKlp9fO— Chicago Wolves (@Chicago_Wolves) October 31, 2021
Joey Keane recorded his first goal for the Wolves as he raced down the right side of the light and shot from just above the goal line. Griffins goalie Victor Brattstrom angled his stick to try to turn the shot aside and wound up directing it into his own net.
His first in a Wolves jersey, YOU LOVE TO SEE IT. pic.twitter.com/mxl2qZDX2k— Chicago Wolves (@Chicago_Wolves) October 31, 2021
The Wolves’ penalty kill, which has struggled at times, mostly stayed strong, allowing two goals on six opportunities. While the number of penalties the Wolves are taking has to be a concern for Warsofsky, so far his team has been able to overcome any issues due to being down a man.
Scoring: Andrew Poturalski, 3 G 2 A; C.J. Smith, 1 G 4 A; Joey Keane, 1 G; Jalen Chatfield, 1 G; Stefan Noesen, 3 A; Max Lajoie, 2 A
In net: Eetu Mäkiniemi, saved 24 of 27, 0.889 Sv%